Writing a travel blog is a sharing of opinion, impressions and experiences without a hidden agenda. The blog posts can connect with people and may present a view different to one already held. It is with this in mind that I’m still figuring out that Filipino Travel Blog commentators and readers and maybe the best and worst audience you could possible have.
These are views I’m forming not from my personal experience but from watching the reaction on other people’s travel blogs.
It is fair to say that I’ve never been to the Philippines yet, hopefully someday I will. I nearly went in the year 2000 however my travel buddies and I changed our plans and opted for Malaysia instead. The only reason we changed our mind was due to a spate of kidnappings of tourists during that year. They were taking place close to the islands we were considering. Thankfully I’ve heard very little news of kidnapping from the islands since. That is now a good reason for me to consider going again.
I have however met some Filipino people in different parts of the world. From my first hand experience the ones I’ve met were fun loving, friendly, out going and very passionate people.
After following travel blogs for over 2 years I’ve also found something else out. Filipino Travel Blog readers are social media lovers and extremely passionate about their country. Some to the point of ridicule where they become inarticulate, hurl abuse and wild accusations. Some make unbelievable and totally unnecessary threats.
To counter that other Filipinos offer incredibly helpful comments or suggestions. They take on board a view which maybe different to their own. Or maybe they disagree and will structure an argument to counter yours.
Whichever way you look at it Filipinos are a proud people who are not afraid to tell you of what they think.
So why did I form this view? Well it came from fellow travel bloggers websites.
Primarily I’d like to talk about a recent example. I’d like to talk about a recent article on Anna Everywhere.
I will be completely honest with you in that I’ve never met Anna. I have exchanged e-mails in past and also interviewed her. Beyond that I have no connection whatsoever with her. In fact she does not even know I am writing this about her until I publish it.
What did Anna Everywhere do to upset so many Filipino Travel Blog commentators?
If you’ve never read Anna Everywhere then let me firstly explain to you why I do. Anna is a girl who gives an honest recount of her experiences and opinions. She does not hide behind a shell and paint everything as rosy. If she likes something she’ll say why. If she doesn’t like something then she will say why and back it up with good reason. She does not write a controversial article to seek attention. She writes articles to be honest with her readers. It is through this honesty that she has gained my respect.
So a real fire storm has erupted on the internet when she wrote “Boracay – probably the worst island I’ve ever visited”
Okay, first up it is a clear title where she has stated an opinion. Immediately some people will get their backs up without even trying to understand why.
For example, she first explains that the tourist guide of the Philippines paints a picture of “beautiful beaches”, “paradise lost” and a place for wild parties although Anna admitted to being hesitant on the last one.
She also mentions that “she knew” she had to take a long bus ride. She mentions that she took the “advice of a friend” as well as saying “I read on a blog”. Now I don’t know about you but it sounds to me as though Anna has done some homework before going here.
So if Anna has shared some of her preparation for the trip with us why do people rush to comment saying “do your research”. Clearly this is not a respectful response from a reader.
Anna also mentions “before you crucify me, read my thoughts to understand why I hated Boracay”.
Sadly this very reasonable request was totally ignored by some. This led to some highly offensive, inappropriate and abusive comments on her blog. Do these commentators not take the time to understand the message coming through from the article?
Anna makes comment that some Filipino teenagers chose not to respect other people on a long bus ride and played their music really loud whilst screaming and throwing chips. I think that is a fair reason to be unhappy Anna.
All of a sudden, this along with other criticisms of her personal experience make her a “racist” in the minds of some narrow minded appeal. Apparently she’s not ageist, she’s not come across a small set of teenagers who lacked respect for others (which you will find in any country). No, simply because this is in the Philippines and the behaviour of a few of the nationals was not polite she’s a racist!!! If only these readers had taken the time to understand what she had actually written and understand what the term racist actually means.
Anna then describes the place as a tourist trap. People trying to get tips and money out of you for even on occasion not helping you! She talks about the attitude of some of the people in her hostel and on the beaches being there for reasons which differ from hers. She felt many of them were there just to get drunk and get laid. The complete opposite to her aspirations.
Very importantly I noticed Anna mention and even use as a headline “Lack of Filipino culture”. Sounds like a fair observation to me yet remember some people are calling her racist. How can she be racist when she felt this visit to Boracay was untypically Filipino?
Admittedly she talks about “Boracay Filipinos don’t really give a damn about visitors at all”. This comment was based on being messed around by one company she was trying to organise a mermaid swimming class with. Based on that experience alone I agree it would be fair to challenge such a wide sweeping comment by Anna about Boracay Filipinos. Maybe it is just that specific company who don’t give a damn?
Anna talks of annoying vendors all day long whilst on the beach. This girl wanted to relax and enjoy time at the location, not being pestered all day long by people trying to make money from her.
Yet for such a (in my mind) a reasonable aspiration by Anna some vilify her. They defend these tourist touts saying they have very little money and are very poor people. Well welcome to the real world narrow minded commentator. Yes, we appreciate that many of these are poor people. We know that tourism is their livelihood.
Here’s a reality check for you. There is a way to sell and make a living and there is a way to hack off tourists and make them resistant to giving you money. If you pester them to submission or swindle them out of money then these tourists are not going to remember you in a good light.
I guess I’m like Anna. I don’t mind some services and shops being accessible to a beach. However I don’t want to be crowded with them and endure unwanted pressure selling. Without knowing the specific circumstances of these beach traders I wonder if a different sales approach may help them be less poor than they already are?
The biggest disappointment for this Travel Blogger was the beach. She hated the over consumerism mentioning the presence of “StarBucks, Pizza Hut and other random restaurants”. Does anyone remember Anna mentioning before a lack of Filipino culture? Well StarBucks and Pizza Hut are American companies the last time I checked. How can anyone defend their presence as a counter argument to Anna’s reasons?
Then to wrap it all up Anna put a perfect disclaimer at the end of the article:-
“I visited other places in the Philippines and they were nothing like Boracay. Before you place a comment remember that I don’t discourage people from going to the Philippines, I just don’t recommend Boracay unless you like places like this (and I know some people do). Safe travels!”
Maybe I’m wrong but I take it this is quite clear. Anna visited other places in the Philippines and whilst not casting judgement on those other places in this article she just didn’t like Boracay. Even in Anna’s reply to the first comment she says “I went to Bohol as well – way nicer than Boracay”.
So how do people respond in the comments? Well some were quite bad to be honest.
People are telling her that:-
– she should have researched more
– have a more open mind
– stop being negative
– be more positive
– “I pity you more because you are not a wise tourist / traveller”
– “I think Anna here should book a trip to heaven”
– “I found this to be a stupid article on many levels”
– “you seem awfully ignorant and judgemental”
– “you could have read some reviews before coming” (err wake up alert to this commentator she did, I guess you didn’t read her article word for word?)
– “YOU WILL NEVER GET HAPPINESS HONEY …….BECAUSE YOU ATTRACT NEGATIVE ALWAYS”
– “You’re such a negative person that needs to eat a truckload of humble pie”
– “I don’t like the sound of “drunken dutch” you racist” (- in response to Anna’s earlier comment that she came across some drunken Dutch people. Hardly racist to meet someone who is drunk and actually comes from somewhere on this planet of ours is it?)
– “Stupid article”
– “That’s only the problem with you foreigners you always stick to one point of view”
– “You are not a credible source for Boracay travel from this pathetic excuse for a “blog entry”
– “you are not welcome to our country if that what you say”
– “Don’t go to any Philippine beach…..surely you will just check every single negative in our beaches”
– “You are racist and very subjective”
Yet if you remember I said that Filipino Travel Blog Commentators are the best. After such a barrage of negative feedback shown in the examples above why would Filipino travel blog readers be so great? Well the reason is clear, they all share their opinions. The overwhelming majority of the comments which Anna has allowed to remain on her site back up her views.
People say how sorry they are to hear of how poor her experience was. They agree with many of her points. Many suggest alternate places to visit next time. (I wonder how many of these readers also appreciate that Anna did visit some other places.)
Also what I found very touching was the welcoming nature of many. A number of Filipino commentators said that Anna is welcome to return and they will personally show her a different side of Boracay. Help her see some of the positive aspects.
Now forgive me if I’m wrong, but such gestures from these blog readers are fantastic. They know how to respond and offer an opportunity to change Anna’s perception of the place.
– “You should try xxx / xxx / xxx ….etc it is better than Boracay”
– “Anna was spot on with her article”
– “I also have my share of nasty experiences with backpackers, rude filipino teenagers…”
– “Hi, I’m Filipino and I totally agree with your article”
– “Sad, but true Anna. I’m Filipino but I agree”
– “Anna, I respect your opinion”
– “It’s a fair and honest review”
– “Filipino here and I totally agree with everything stated here”
– “I love Boracay but I couldn’t agree with you more”
– “Hi Anna truly sad you got that impression but you are right”.
– “Too true….Don’t let Boracay dissuade you from trying our other beaches”.
One commentator, Edgat gives a nice little historical explanation on how tourism has developed on the island. They explain how it used to be a peaceful, paradise island then the with a change of management of tourism on the island the explosion of tourism has changed it far beyond what it used to be.
I could go on and on but you can read for yourself.
Many readers offer constructive criticism to challenge Anna’s article. After all that is what sensible, mature people want. After all we are allowed to disagree; heck I’m sure I could disagree with a few things Anna says on her blog. That doesn’t mean I would ever be abusive or unkind to her.
I’m subscribed to the comments on this blog post and from reading the page I’m sure Anna has (quite rightly) removed some comments. I think it was right to remove them because they were foul language filled tirades which did not offer a sensible challenge to the article. If I’d received such comments on my site I would have edited them out too.
Blogging is about giving a personal opinion, a view, a judgement not influenced by a tourist board. If you want to read glowing and rosy stories of your home and see it in the best light then read the tourist board websites and magazines.
If you want to read real opinions to encourage sensible dialogue then read personal travel blogs like Anna’s.
I know I try to write honest views on my experiences. I try to highlight the positive and the negative. If I can’t find a negative or can’t find a positive then I won’t highlight it.
What I’ve seen demonstrated overall here is that Filipinos are very passionate and they have a voice. I guess the positive feedback to negative feedback for Anna was maybe 3-4 to 1 in her comments. I don’t recall such widespread feedback on any other topics published.
I also know that my good friends the E-Trampers caused an internet storm when they posted about how Agness disliked Filipino street food. Again an article was published which was an honest opinion.
The reaction was phenomenal. Many social media savvy Filipinos took it as an insult to their culture, their country and all that they stood for. Yet when you look at it all she said was she didn’t like her street food experience.
Hey, I don’t like mushrooms but I don’t expect all the mushroom based producers to launch a tirade of hatred against me. It is a personal taste thing.
I reiterated what I said earlier. Travel blogs are about personal travel experiences. An honest, warts and all view of someone’s experience. It is not a glossy brochure style presentation that everything is fabulous.
When it comes to somewhere close to home some people take it as an affront. Some people take it with the credibility it is worthy of. If someone criticises something about my home country and it is well presented then I can understand that. I will respect their opinion. I might agree with it or I might disagree with it. If I don’t like it I can also choose not to read it anymore.
The amazing thing about Filipino Travel Blog commentators is that they will let you know what they think. That is why I think they are in most respects a brilliant audience to have.